By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Local Teens Earn Nomination For Junior Achievement Award
teens best

A stellar group of teens make up this year’s Junior Achievement nominees, with the youth involved in a number of school and community endeavors. They will be recognized at the Friday, March 11 annual Oakdale Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner at the Gene B8ianchi Community Center, 110 S. Second Ave., Oakdale.

The six nominees are Jessica Birchall, Jenna Sanders, Jessica Sanders, Jewlia Word, Taylor Word and Matthew Van Dyke.

Here is some biographical information for each teen nominated for the Junior Achievement award, listed in alphabetical order and with information provided by the nominee.


Jessica Birchall

Jessica Birchall is a junior at Oakdale High School who is taking multiple advanced placement classes and is involved in many extracurriculars. She is a member of the Varsity Volleyball Team, Vice-President of the Service (S) Club, and a piano teacher.

Jessica’s impact on the community includes being at the head of some of the local high school service projects as well as leading her church choir. As Vice-President of the Service Club, her efforts have included trick-or-treating for canned goods to donate, organizing and participating in the building of the Nazarene Nativity Drive-Through, and delivering holiday goody bags for first responders around Christmas time. She has also aided the Soroptimist Club of Oakdale in setting up and helping out at multiple events. A lot of Jessica’s free time is spent putting together events for the service club in hopes of beautifying the community and the people in it. She is also an English tutor for students at lunch and leads her early morning church class every day.

Jessica gives back to her school by earning good grades and represents OHS by doing good deeds around the community. Her achievements include medaling in a poetry competition at the high school and receiving a church youth service award. Her motto is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” striving to live by this daily as she helps others become their best selves.


Jenna Jude Sanders

My name is Jenna Sanders, and I am 16 years old. I am a sophomore at Oakdale High School and despite the chaos COVID has brought, I have been blessed with incredible opportunities. As a freshman, I became very involved in FFA and several of its contests, such as B.I.G, livestock judging, OCC, and the creed. I started my year off with lots and lots of practice for a contest called B.I.G or Best Informed Greenhand. In essence, the contest was a test on everything in FFA. My team ended up taking first in the state with myself as the first place individual. I then competed in a contest in which I recited the FFA Creed and answered various questions about agriculture and the creed itself. This also resulted in a first-place win at the section level! I was eventually slated as a reporter for my chapter and accepted the star greenhand award at the end of my freshman year. In the summer of 2021, I took my steer project to the county fair and took first place in my market class! My project was 10 months of daily care, such as feeding, walking, brushing, washing, etc. In the beginning of my sophomore year, I won an OCC (opening and closing ceremony) contest with my officer team and have continued to grow and learn from my advisors. Aside from FFA, I’ve played as the libero on the JV volleyball team for both my freshman and sophomore year and have maintained a 4.0 GPA. I’ve also been approved as an FCA leader, also known as Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I and three other students are hoping to start that program at Oakdale High in 2022.

Additionally, I was honored with the title of homecoming princess and had such an amazing experience. I also participated in the Love Oakdale community service day and was able to help plant at the rescue shelter and clean the skatepark.


Jessica Delphia Sanders

First, I am very honored to be nominated for the 2021 Junior Achievement award. I have stayed very busy and have been pushed and motivated by so many people during this chaotic year. This year I have participated in community service projects, placed in several competitions, achieved degrees, attended conventions and conferences, and have had many other special opportunities. I helped in the Love Oakdale by assisting others to set up before the event and plant trees at a homeless shelter. I also served dinner and handed out raffle tickets at the Sheriff’s posse dinner. As well as helping in these events I led the flag salute at the Veterans Day Parade. This was an incredible honor. These were great opportunities to serve my community and give back to Oakdale. I have also had the pleasure of being involved in FFA. I participated in many speaking competitions such as creed, impromptu, and OCC. I also was on a state champion team for the B.I.G. or best informed greenhand contest. I placed first in this competition at the section level as well. In the OCC, opening and closing ceremony, competition I placed first as a president and won overall high team. I am also on the livestock judging team. We recently competed at the Chico Field Day and placed first overall high team. Along with competing with FFA, I have attended the National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana and the Made for Excellence conference in Monterey. These very memorable moments taught me a lot about leadership and let me grow as a leader. The workshops and sessions I attended at these events were very informative and fun. Furthermore, I show a steer at the county fair. I raise it from November to July and then show in showmanship and market. In my market class I placed first, and I am continuing this project now. I also have earned my chapter and greenhand degree and am currently working on getting my state degree. Outside of FFA, I play volleyball and was awarded the Mustang Award. I also have maintained a 4.0 throughout high school and am taking an AP class. I plan to continue to be very active in my community and involved in my school.


Jewlia Grace Word

I am currently a junior attending Oakdale High School and I enjoy fishing, camping, and helping my Papa with his catering. I have been a dancer for 12 years and have danced on the stage in Disneyland. Following my dancing years, I have cheered with Oakdale High School for two years and participated in Mini Mustangs. When I was a little girl, I had done Mini Mustangs and I remember looking up to those older girls and them being my role models. Being able to finally be a Mustang cheerleader helping those little girls and being someone they looked up to was a wonderful experience all around. I have also been an assistant coach on a coach pitch team where I taught girls how to keep their eye on the ball while hitting, and how to cheer on a teammate when they soared and how to give them encouragement when they failed. I have spent my off time helping as much as possible around the community with various activities. Some of those activities are Love Oakdale, handing out gifts to the elderly, leading the 150th parade, working at the Christmas parade, and the youth meet and greet. My favorite activity was being able to hand out cards to the veterans and showing my appreciation for everything they have done for our country. Currently I am an active member in FFA where I have attended various conferences and conventions offered to me and have represented Oakdale as a State Delegate. They have helped me grow as a leader and given me further insight on how to use those skills throughout the community. Being able to show a goat for the past three years has taught me to be reliable and responsible for other things besides myself.


Taylor Nichole Word

My name is Taylor Word, and I am currently a senior at Oakdale High School. I enjoy going shore fishing with my dad, and hunting and camping with my family and friends. I have played both competitive softball and had the opportunity to be on the high school team. While playing softball I got the chance to coach an 8u coach pitch team where I could help teach them new skills. I also helped at the OBSA softball clinic where I helped girls that were many different ages from many different teams. When I was younger, I went to the clinics that the high school held and being the older kid who helps the littles really warmed my heart. During school I am involved in the FFA program where I competed in Job Interview and Farm Management competitions. I also was able to have the opportunity to raise pigs and steers for the fair. I have volunteered my time by helping at our annual booster dinner and by being a part of the poinsettia committee. In the community I have volunteered my time at multiple events like the Can Tree Breakfast and the Veterans Parade where we handed out cards that the youth made them. During the Oakdale 150th Birthday Celebration I helped set up at the rodeo grounds and was able to lead the parade. During the 2021 Christmas season I helped with the Christmas Parade, and was fortunate enough to be one of the many people who handed out gifts to the people living in the care center. One of the favorite things I’ve done so far is go to the local youth meet and greet where I got to meet new people from our community.


Matthew Van Dyke

During 2021, I worked in my community and school to create change and give back. During the summer, I worked at the community pool as a lifeguard and water aerobics instructor. I also worked as a lifeguard and Jr. Lifeguard Camp Instructor at Blue Lake Springs in Arnold. Since then, I have worked as a swim coach for Oakdale Aquatics, going back to where I started. As I entered my senior year, I also joined my fourth year on the Varsity Water Polo team. I led the team as team captain and received the leadership award. This year I became the treasurer of S-Club, a service club at Oakdale High, and I have volunteered at numerous events throughout the community this school year. I worked this year to put my computer science knowledge into action. I was first granted the opportunity to build a new website for Oakdale’s Alternative Education High School, East Stanislaus. This project was a steppingstone to the opportunity to redesign and build a new website for my own school, Oakdale High. During this process I got to create the new design, gather information, capture images, and provide a better experience for people visiting the site. My goal with this project was to elevate the Oakdale High School’s online presence and provide an easy to use experience for users on computers and their phones. Shortly after launching the Oakdale High website, I created my own website development business, Streamline Development. After starting the business, I started working with Oakdale Aquatics on their new website. In October, I was awarded the DAR Good Citizen Award for Oakdale High and in December earned third place in the Congressional App Challenge, where I got to meet with Congressman Josh Harder and talk about the importance of computer science education.


For additional information regarding the awards dinner or to make reservations, contact the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce at 209-847-2244; stop by the Chamber office at 590 N. Yosemite Ave., Oakdale; or go online to

Dinner tickets are $40 each pre-sale, $50 at the door. Deadline for reservations is Monday, March 7.